This is a guest post from a concerned parent in the Bay Area in response to a chilling policy from the Archbishop of San Francisco. I appreciate the words written below because they show how torn, conflicted, and frightened people can be about speaking out and making change in a church they love and grew up in. (I chose this picture because at least the guy likes pink.)
I am writing this statement anonymously. I am a parent at a Catholic school in San Francisco. I must remain anonymous so that I do not affect my child adversely for expressing views contrary to those of the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone.
The Archbishop released a new policy statement which will be inserted into the teachers handbooks in the four high schools the Archdiocese controls. He asserts that to affirm or believe in masturbation, artificial insemination, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage and abortion is “gravely evil.” Not only does he judge these as “gravely evil,” he is forbidding teachers in these four highschools from asserting contrary views and/or participating in communication or activities or organizations that express contrary views. He states that violation of this policy will be determined on a case by case basis. For example, you can attend a same sex wedding ceremony, but you cannot be on the Board of Planned Parenthood. In other words, whatever action the Archbishop happens to decide does not meet his “standards” gives him the power to terminate the teacher. His policy is chilling of speech, capricious, threatening and wrong.
I attended Catholic grammar school and high school, and University of San Francisco Law School, a Catholic Jesuit University. I am so grateful for the incredible education I received at these Catholic institutions. I experienced thought provoking discussions and analysis in high school religion and English classes. I was taught to think for myself. Both students and teachers represented and argued for a myriad of viewpoints and ideas. I was challenged on Sundays, not just to sit through mass with an empty stomach — as we had to fast before Communion in the old days– but to listen to the stories of kindness and love almost beyond human capacity. The Father who gives a huge celebration for the prodigal son. The good son who works hard for many years while his brother squanders his money and drinks and plays. It was the jealous brother, not the frivolous one, who was chastised in the story. So we are challenged to give love, kindness and forgiveness even when an unfairness gives advantage to another who wants redemption. These kind of stories, of radical forgiveness, acceptance and love, I hold in my heart as the ideals I strive for — to welcome my reckless brother, to celebrate and love my irresponsible child on his/her return to my home, to be the better person.
I feel challenged to embrace this Archbishop even though his careless and callous unkindness espouses universal control over classrooms, teachers and thereby students. He threatens teachers with dismissal if they dissent from his view of sexual morality and his description of all matter of practices of sexuality as “gravely evil”. This harsh and narrow-minded judge who maintains unfettered control of the Archdiocese that includes San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, even he who is doing such harsh and harmful work, I must find a way to show love and kindness toward him. I must try to find compassion. This is the kind of challenge posed to me as a Catholic, to love someone who is threatening me and those I love and care for, my child, my child’s teachers, his school and the church itself. I am struggling with this. That is what Catholicism challenges me to do — to love all, no matter what they do, no matter who they are, prisoner, prostitute, bishop, teacher, homeless, myself, my children, my enemy, each and everyone. Love and kindness is our code as Catholics.
I am struggling with holding love and compassion for this Archbishop. I find his imposition of his views on sexual morality on the teachers of the Archdiocese unkind, unloving, chilling of speech and intellectual discourse and development. Putting these particular ideas and the threat of termination of teachers who offer contrary views or publicly support entities that embody contrary views, is threatening to the teachers livelihood, their personhood, their ability to speak and to teach well. The Archbishop’s representative was on Forum this morning, a nationally broadcast radio program out of San Francisco. He indicated over and over that the teachers are to hold the Archbishop’s sexual morality belief, allow kids to say what they want, and to persuade the kids, bring them back to the Archbishop’s position. I am Catholic and this is NOT what I want. I do not want my kids to be persuaded/indoctrinated in these views. I do not want anyone to persuade them of their views. I want my kids to develop their own views and to become their own person in the context of a Catholic community that promotes love, kindness, tolerance, compassion. I want to trust that these tools are enough to guide my child into adulthood and into becoming a good person, maybe even a good Catholic person. I do not want them to learn to control, dominate, judge, restrain others.
Any expression, sexual or otherwise, when done to excess or to hurt yourself or another person is wrong. Unkindness is wrong. Hate is wrong. Violence is wrong. Hurting another intentionally or with callous disregard is wrong. There are plenty of things that are wrong. There are very few acts or people who are “gravely evil”. And many evil acts are perpetrated by people who appear evil, but in fact are simply gravely ill and need our love, compassion and kindness. War is wrong. Killing is wrong. Terrorizing others is wrong. Abuse is wrong. This policy is terrorizing teachers, staff and thereby potentially terrorizing students, parents, others who, for example, use assistance from doctors to get pregnant, or who live in a homosexual relationship, or God forbid, disagree with the Archbishop’s view of sexual morality.
Recently, I wrote a letter to the Vatican representative in Washington DC to ask for help to return civility, love and kindness to our Archdiocese. I hope that Archbishop Vigano will pass along our concerns to Pope Francis who represents fully the Catholic ideals of love and kindness I learned, experienced and strive to embody in my own life.
An anonymous, terrified, saddened parent of a student in a Catholic high school.
The following is the letter I wrote to Archbishop Vigano, the Vatican’s representative in Washington D.C.:
Your Excellency Vigano,
With all due respect, I submit a letter I received from my son’s high school. It is a very nice letter and includes all the wonderful and amazing principles supported by Pope Francis — love, inclusion, respect, et cetera. I am so grateful for the kindness of the staff at (my child’s school).
I am concerned about the letter from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone that is on (the Archdiocese of San Francisco) website, and is linked in the body of this letter. The letter threatens to chill dialogue in school and beyond, and threatens the secure employment of teachers and staff. The tone is very upsetting to me as a person and a lifelong Catholic. Further, the text of the policy was not included with the letter, making the insinuations in the letter that much more frightening and unnerving. The words in the policy were reported in the newspaper, and were also extremely upsetting.
The action taken with publishing this letter and the policy statement does not reflect the love and kindness that Pope Francis has so consistently shown through his words and actions. Please help to restore to our Archdiocese, the love, kindness, respect and all the virtues that Pope Francis has so eloquently demonstrated in his work as the head of our church.
Thank you and God bless you.